Like heralding Radiohead’s “return to guitar-rock,” labeling a fresh Weezer record “the next Pinkerton” is one of modern rock’s emptiest promises. So it’s unsurprising that Hurley, the band’s eighth album (and first release for Epitaph Records), can’t match Pinkerton in terms of rough edges or diary-ripped lyrical weirdness. Hurley does, however, share one defining characteristic with the band’s beloved sophomore LP: a beating heart. If Pinkerton is the sound of a wounded nerd over-sharing his way through a quarter-life crisis, Hurley represents that crisis’ inevitable mid-life counterpart. Its stadium-sized hooks and crunchy guitars are the equivalent of a red convertible and a 25-year-old girlfriend; references to domestic responsibilities and bygone band hijinks make opening track and lead single “Memories” literal dad-rock. Despite this, frontman Rivers Cuomo resembles his old, hot-blooded self as the song surges to a close, a welcome presence that returns in the snarling coda of “Unspoken” and the cathartic middle eight of “Ruling Me.” That youthful energy isn’t enough to elevate the anthemic “Trainwrecks” and “Smart Girls” beyond the realm of young-adult fiction, but it makes up for some of the more rote observations on aging in “Time Flies” and “Brave New World.” As they grow older, Cuomo and his bandmates will never make a record that supplants their fans’ fond Pinkerton-related memories—but a few more impassioned albums like Hurley might erase the sour aftertaste of several Raditudes.
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